On March 19, 2006, Candace Parker became the first woman in NCAA tournament history to dunk. But once wasn’t enough — she did it twice.
Her first dunk came less than 10 minutes into the No. 2 seeded Tennessee Volunteers' first-round game against No. 15 Army. It all started thanks to an Army turnover secured by Sydney Spencer. Without hesitation, Spencer quickly tossed the ball out in front of Parker as she raced down the court on the fastbreak.
With an open court in front of her, it took only 3 seconds for Parker to decide she would make women’s basketball history.
“You’re thinking about a dunk… THERE IT IS,” exclaims play-by-play commentator Sean McDonough.
But she didn’t stop there.
She did it again.
About 20 minutes later.
With under 10 to go on the shot clock, Parker passed it down low to Nicky Anosike, cut on the baseline, got it back, and rose up for her second slam of the game.
“OOOH,” bursts out color commenter Doris Burke.
Setting the bar high and then topping her own achievement is a recurring theme throughout Parker’s athletic career.
While at Tennessee, she led her team to back-to-back national titles in 2007 and 2008. As a Team USA Olympian, she was a two-time gold medalist in 2008 and 2012. Not only is she the only WNBA athlete to win the AP Female Athlete of the Year award, but she won it twice — her rookie season in 2008 and again in 2021. She also brought home a championship trophy for the LA Sparks in 2016 and led the Chicago Sky to its first WNBA title in 2021.
Reflecting back on what winning a second WNBA title meant for her career, Parker told TIME magazine, “You can mess around and do stuff one time, and people can doubt it. “But if you do something twice, it’s not by accident. So I’ve said, from the time I was at Tennessee, in order for my name to be mentioned with the greatest players at Tennessee, I have to win twice. So I do think this was a legacy-defining moment.”
The timeless song in the musical Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” is the soundtrack for Parker’s basketball career. Only for Parker, perhaps the title would be, “Anything I Can Do, I Can Still Do Better”.
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Additional "first" career highlights
- Parker was a prodigy in high school. At the age of 15, she recorded her first dunk with Naperville Central High School and is considered to be the first high school female athlete to dunk in Illinois.
- Back in 2004, 6’4” Parker was the first female to win the dunk contest at the McDonald’s All-American Game. Beating out multiple future NBA stars including Josh Smith (future winner of the 2005 NBA dunk contest), J.R. Smith (lost to Smith in the 2005 NBA dunk contest and Rudy Gay (future 2008 NBA dunk contest contestant).
- Fresh off of her second straight NCAA title at Tennesee, Parker was selected by the LA Sparks with the first pick in the 2008 WNBA Draft.
- During her game in the WNBA, Parker dropped 34 points, setting the record for the most points scored in a career debut.
- In 2022, Parker became the first female athlete to be featured on the ‘NBA 2K’ video game cover for the WNBA 25th anniversary special edition.